AtomFilms gets leg up on handheld vid distrib

Netcaster to bow 25 shorts via MS's PocketPC

AtomFilms just became a little more mobile. And Hollywood may soon follow.

Taking a major lead in distribbing live-action video and animation programming to handheld devices, the Seattle-based Netcaster is expected today to bow 25 shorts, ranging from 45 seconds to five minutes, to air on any PalmPilot-like device running Microsoft’s revamped PocketPC software.

Microsoft is expected to make a big splash today, unveiling its operating system and deals with device makers Compaq Computers and Hewlett-Packard, which it hopes will enable it to jump back into the handheld space and cut into PalmPilot’s 70% market share.

This year, almost 8 million handheld devices, featuring organizational services such as phone and address books and appointment databases, will be sold worldwide, up from 5.5 million last year, according to market research firm Intl. Data Corp.

And that bodes well for AtomFilms, which is looking at the devices as another way to generate revenues and expose its stable of titles and filmmakers to new viewers, especially if the devices take off among the high school and college crowds, as expected.

Opens distrib window

If they do, this also creates a potential distribution window for Hollywood to target content-hungry auds that multi-task all day.

AtomFilms has already built a profitable business around distributing its online content to offline avenues, such as DVD, VHS, cable channels such as Sundance and HBO, as well as airlines, malls, concerts and on college campuses.

And AtomFilms is expected to reap more coin through a lineup of advertisers, including Volkswagen, who will present a 30-second spot before each full-color program runs on the handheld devices.

“We see these devices as entertainment devices,” said Adam Flick, online content czar for AtomFilms. “And we see them as a way to change the way people will be entertained on the go. We will drive the sales of these devices by offering a great experience on the content side. Plus you get all of the other benefits.”

As part of its deal with Microsoft, consumers looking for AtomFilms content will be able to log onto an AtomToGo channel at atomfilms.com/togo using their Internet-enabled devices. Text-based content will also be available to wireless mobile phones.

Basically, should anyone want to watch an AtomFilm on their handheld device, they download it themselves from the Web before traveling.

Startup pact

AtomFilms has pacted with startup ActiveSky Media to make its content compatible for mobile devices using the Redwood City-based company’s small-device media streaming technology.

Plans do not call for AtomFilms’ content to be available on 3Com’s PalmPilot devices anytime soon because its 16-bit technology does not yet support full-motion video.

Should downloads prove a hit, AtomFilms could make additional content available every month.

“Through ActiveSky’s proprietary technology, Atom is able to create dedicated content for any mobile platform,” said Matt Hulett, chief marketing and online officer for AtomFilms. “Whether it’s in the theater, on the couch, in the office or on the go, Atom entertainment will be everywhere.”

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